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Week 9 Schedule Analysis

by | Rotowire.com
  •  

It doesn't happen often, but every team in the league will play at least three tilts this week with busy days flip-flopping from Tuesday's and Thursday to Monday's, Wednesday's and of course the weekend days. So it's going to take quite a bit to wade through all the details and get to some of these trends, let's get started.

NHL schedule

(*All b2b (back-to-back) occurrences are in bold)

Four Aces

This week's Four Aces are loaded with not only team's playing on b2b nights, but a special sub-section of teams with a broader idea.

At the rate Boston (PIT, at DET, NYR, CLS) is yielding goals, their schedule is favorable, especially against teams who have had a hard time finding the back of the net consistently. Although some on staff think Zdeno Chara's big body is winding down and settling in to this underwhelming offensive production, we think he's still got something in the tank. Hang in there Chara owners - he got a goal Saturday. Adam McQuaid could be nearing a return of his own.

Columbus (at TOR, NAS, EDM, at BOS) has an opportunity to turn things around in a busy week against three teams going through the very same growing pains and close it all out against the Bruins in Beantown. Matt Calvert scored in his first game back to the lineup and Nikita Nikitin is contributing at the moment.

Don't look now, but Edmonton (CHI, at NAS, at CLS, at DAL), the NHL's biggest disappointment this season, has won three in a row, albeit against the Flames, Jackets and Panthers. But that includes a seven-goal outburst and (14 shot) shutout by Devyn Dubnyk. As usual, any sign of true competition seems to get the Saskatchewan goalie moving. Regardless, the Oilers schedule gets a bit tougher this week, including a rematch with a likely ticked-off Jackets bunch. We see lots of penalties in that one.

While Nashville (PHX, at CLS, EDM, PHI) is not currently dead last in GF as a team, they just got beat 2-0 by a Rangers team that is tied for dead last. Of course this is nothing new. Preds fans have become accustomed to these facts. Marek Mazanec has allowed just six goals in his last four starts. Although neither Mike Smith nor Sergei Bobrovsky were worth a damn this weekend, you should expect bounce-back efforts. So, perhaps you could see a fang in the Nashville offense against the Oilers and Flyers' netminders. But it will likely need to so without Patric Hornqvist.

Philadelphia (at FLA, at TB, WPG, at NAS) plays three of four away from home, including an early week Florida swing, the Jets at home and off to Nashville. Claude Giroux and Matt Read owners are finally enjoying a slide in the right direction and Steve Mason is reaping the benefits.

Pittsburgh (at BOS, TOR, at TB, at FLA) looked like they were done treading water with a few Metro division wins last week, but a 3-2 loss at the hands of the surging Canadiens tells us they're still a sleeping giant. Nonetheless, James Neal is heating up and after Monday's tilt at the TD Bank Garden, they're very likely to win out the week in a big way. Beau Bennett owners in deeper leagues are still dealing with early career speed bumps. That's music to the ears of Matt D'Agostini.

After hosting the Kings, Vancouver (LA, at OTT, at NYR, at CAR) heads out on the road. A falter could happen in Ottawa as the Canucks have had their sights set on Saturday's game since this summer's "coaching trade" with the Rangers. Alexander Edler awoke from his slumber on Friday and then back to sleep on Saturday.

4x4

In 4x4 we break down the remaining five teams in the league not only playing four games this week, but eight games over the next two weeks. Be sure to note the home-and-home as well as long miles traveled on some of the b2b occurrences.

Chicago (at EDM, at CAL, at DAL, at PHX) is one of the five busiest teams with eight games over the next two weeks, starting with four games on the road this week. Either way, it's not likely Corey Crawford will continue his string of consecutive starts. Antti Raanta anyone? Michal Handzus was activated this weekend and will be deployed at some point during the road trip.

The goalie carousel continues for Minnesota (at STL, PHX, COL, at COL), who has one of the most difficult schedules this week. Niklas Backstrom returned from the IR, victorious no less, but league-leader Josh Harding is considered day-to-day. If Harding's injury is serious, Darcy Kuemper, who really dug a path between Minnesota and Des Moines (AHL) last week, may be fed to the wolves (Avalanche).

After ending a fairly successful trip out west with a 2-1 loss to San Jose, we're not sure what to think of New Jersey's (WPG, CAR, at CAR, BUF) week. Despite the three teams' underwhelming combined record of 23-39-10, the Devils are still looking for an offensive juggernaut to step up. While the Devils are hoping that will be summer offseason signing and river rivalry import Ryane Clowe, he's just now resumed skating. After Martin Brodeur's run in with Brent Burns on Saturday, Cory Schneider figures to get almost all of these starts, but four? A quick glance of Albany's (AHL) team stats suggests Keith Kinkaid could get the call. Kinkaid (7-2-1, 1.97) has certainly been better than Scott Wedgewood (4-4, 2.66).

As you can plainly see, it won't be easy for a slumping Rangers (at TB, at FLA, at BOS, VAN) offense whose only game at home will be the aforementioned and long-awaited matchup of former head coaches. Backup Cam Talbot, who enjoyed his second straight shutout on Saturday versus the Preds, is less likely to enjoy the Bruins as Henrik Lundqvist will likely draw the big grudge match at MSG on Saturday.

Toronto (CLS, at PIT, at BUF, at MTL) has an interesting semi-road trip after hosting the Blue Jackets on Monday. Though all three games will be played in white jerseys, all three are considered regional rivals, so you could see a tough Leafs team this week. Tyler Bozak (hamstring) nearing a return? David Clarkson has two goals in his last three affairs.

Back-To-Back Jacks

In the interest of saving time, with so many teams (21) playing on back-to-back nights, if you DON'T see your back-up goalie's team in Back-to-Back Jacks this week you'll likely not need his services as the number one goalie in town should get three starts.

Despite not being far removed from injury, we'll be interested to see if Carolina (at NJ, NJ, VAN) goes with Cam Ward the whole way as the Canes' schedule is spread evenly. Also, it appears Andrej Sekera is making waves?

It's not so clean in Dallas (ANH, CHI, EDM) as Kari Lehtonen was pulled in Saturday night's contest with St. Louis. Although Lehtonen is due for a slump (or injury), it's St. Louis and not many goalies are exempt from a beating, much less against the Blues offense. We were hesitant to commit to Ray Whitney returning last week, but we're almost positive he'll return to a line with Dustin Jeffrey and Shawn Horcoff this week. With that being said, we like the upside for Jeffrey.

Detroit's (BOS, at NYI, at OTT) Daniel Alfredsson, who had missed the last five games with a pulled groin, is due to return to action Sunday. Todd Bertuzzi's checkered career has truly hit a crossroad. He's hurting again and we're not talking about his goose eggs and minus-8 rating over the last six games. The Red Wings have bigger problems as Pavel Datsyuk finished Saturday's game, but could be undergoing some concussion tests this week.

Florida (PHI, NYR, PIT) really has no other options than Tim Thomas, so this is good news for Thomas owners. It's a week of three different career tales for Thomas as he's posted a hot career record (13-4-2) against the Flyers, poor against the Rangers (5-10-3) and modest (8-6-4) against the Pens. Scott Gomez returned on Friday for those desperate top-six assists fiends.

After winning four straight and six of their first eight to start the month, Los Angeles (at VAN, at SJ, CAL) has lost two consecutive games in OT. They'll look to end the month strong with three Pacific division games. Hopefully Ben Scrivens remains focused, as otherwise this month could end as poorly.

Phoenix (at NAS, at MIN, CHI) spends the week battling hockey's strongest division, the Central. Not good news for a team that could be without Martin Hanzal, although the Preds don't scare the Coyotes. No matter who's in goal for Minny and Chicago it's likely to be a tough matchup. Oliver Ekman-Larsson missed practice on Friday, but still managed an assist against Anaheim on Saturday. Rob Klinkhammer has come back down to earth the past three games and Zbynek Michalek's stay on the IR is still undetermined.

Winners of three in a row, St. Louis (MIN, at COL, at SJ) is like a machine, boasting a 16-3-3 record. The rich get richer as Patrik Berglund returned in Saturday's 6-1 win over Dallas to the tune of an assist.

Tampa Bay (NYR, PHI, PIT) hosts three Metro division opponents. After starting the month 5-0, Ben Bishop was outright pitiful on the team's most recent West Coast trip. But Bishop tightened things up against a tough Ducks team to end the trip on Friday night. Regardless of where Steve Stamkos is at for his rehab, how far the Lightning (five of their next 6 from home) go this week and all season depends on this kid fulfilling expectations.J.T. Brown is seeing more power play time and it's impacting his stat lines. We're picking him up in our deeper leagues.

The pride of Manitoba travels east as Winnipeg (at NJ, at NYI, at PHI) embarks on a six game road trip. But the Jets have a very winnable schedule, or do they? Your call. One thing we do know, if any of these games go to a shootout, clearly Ondrej Pavelec (5-2) is a pretty good bet.

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Player News
Braden Holtby
Caps' Holtby Pulled In First Period Saturday
Braden Holtby, G, WAS
12:59 AM
News: Braden Holtby surrendered three goals on thirteen shots, and was pulled late in the first period of Washington's 4-3 loss to the Predators on Saturday.
Analysis: It was a poor outing for Braden Holtby, who had won four of his last five starts heading into Saturday's match against the Predators, a powerhouse in the Western Conference. The decision to pull him early in the game likely means he will be called upon to start Sunday's crucial showdown with the Metropolitan Division leading Rangers, but check before game time to confirm the start. Despite the poor performance, Holtby owns a sterling 36-19-9 record, with a 2.18 GAA and .925 save percentage, on the season.

Jonas Hiller
Flames Turn To Hiller On Sunday
Jonas Hiller, G, CGY
12:49 AM
News: Jonas Hiller will be in the net Sunday against the Predators.
Analysis: Jonas Hiller has been the forgotten man in goal of late for the Flames, but he'll have a chance to stake his claim to the No. 1 gig with a strong outing against the Predators. Coach Bob Hartley has shown a tendency to ride the hot hand this season, and with Ramo's ratios starting to flat line, opportunity knocks for Hiller, who has a 21-18-4 record and 2.44 GAA this season.

Patrick Kane
Hawks' Kane Still On Target For Return
Patrick Kane, RW, CHI
12:43 AM
News: Patrick Kane, who is out with a broken clavicle, is still on track to return by the Western Conference Finals in the Stanley Cup playoffs if the Blackhawks get that far, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Analysis: The original diagnosis was that Patrick Kane would miss 12 weeks that put his return by the Western Conference Finals. Blackhawks' coach Joel Quenneville though sort of left open the door that he could return earlier. Kane has recently been skating on his own so it has spurred some optimism in the Blackhawks' camp that he will return before the conference finals.

Brandon Sutter
Pens' Sutter Exits With Injury
Brandon Sutter, C, PIT
12:35 AM
News: Brandon Sutter exited Saturday's game against the Coyotes in the third period with an injury, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: With only a few minutes left in the match, it appears unlikely that Brandon Sutter will return. He's the second player to exit for the Penguins, after defenseman Kris Letang was removed from the game in the second period following a hit into the boards. Sutter should be viewed as day-to-day heading into Sunday's match against the Sharks.

Trevor Daley
Stars' Daley Back In Saturday
Trevor Daley, D, DAL
12:22 AM
News: Trevor Daley (knee) will return to the lineup Saturday against the Canucks, Elliott Pap of the Vancouver Sun reports.
Analysis: It will be Trevor Daley's first game since March 3, when he suffered a knee injury following a hit from the Isles' Matt Martin. While his return probably comes too late to help the Stars chase down a wild-card spot in the Western Conference, Daley should bolster many fantasy rosters with postseason play underway in many leagues. Despite the missed time, Daley's 16 goals still rank him tied for third among all NHL defensemen.

Jason Garrison
Bolts Rule Out Garrison With Upper-Body Injury
Jason Garrison, D, TB
12:10 AM
News: Jason Garrison was ruled out from returning to Saturday's game against the Red Wings due to an upper-body injury, Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times reports.
Analysis: Jason Garrison skated just two shifts and logged 0:41 of ice time before departing. He should be considered questionable ahead of Monday's game in Montreal until the Lightning issue further word on the severity of his injury.

Markus Granlund
Flu Keep Flames' Granlund Out Of Practice
Markus Granlund, C, CGY
12:05 AM
News: Markus Granlund missed Saturday's practice due to a case of the flu.
Analysis: The illness could put Markus Granlund at missing Sunday's game against the Predators. Josh Jooris centered the Flames' third line at practice with Granlund unavailable.

Kris Letang
Pens' Letang Departs With Injury Saturday
Kris Letang, D, PIT
12:02 AM
News: Kris Letang left Saturday's game in the second period after he was hit into the end boards by the Coyotes' Shane Doan, Shelly Anderson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
Analysis: The Penguins haven't ruled Kris Letang out of the game yet, but that seems like a safe conclusion after he was unable to skate off the ice on his own. It appeared that Letang's head backed into the boards on the hit, so the blueliner will undoubtedly be evaluated for a concussion, among other possible injuries. Penguins tough guy Steve Downie quickly got in a skirmish with Doan shortly after play resumed, but that won't make up for any potential absence for Letang, who entered Saturday ranked in a tie for second among all NHL blueliners with 54 points in 68 games.

Nino Niederreiter
Wild's Niederreiter Scores Twice In Win
Nino Niederreiter, RW, MIN
3/28/2015
News: Nino Niederreiter potted a pair of goals and was a plus-3 in Saturday's win over the Kings.
Analysis: Nino Niederreiter now has 24 goals on the season -- 30th most in the NHL. While he's only got 37 points in 75 games, the 22-year-old had turned into a lethal goal-scorer and is producing nicely on a line with Mikko Koivu.

Mikko Koivu
Wild's Koivu Strikes Twice In Win
Mikko Koivu, C, MIN
3/28/2015
News: Mikko Koivu scored a pair of goals and assisted on another in Saturday's win over the Kings.
Analysis: That's four goals and six points in five games for Mikko Koivu, who has potted the game-winner in back-to-back outings. The 32-year-old now has 14 goals on the season -- his highest total since the 2010-11 season (17). He's producing consistently on the second line for a surging Minnesota team, so keep him rolling.

 
 
 
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